Chapter 33: The Duel.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you all... but it’s something I have to do”, Tommy replied bluntly, not daring to look her in the eyes.
“You promised we could make this work! You promised that with Jacob gone, everything could go back to normal!”
“I promised you a great many things,” Tommy said, entering his home and attempting to close the door on her. Trang, however, wasn’t keen on this action and firmly forced the door open.
Aryan quickly caught up with the pair and entered the home as well, “Tommy, what were you thinking?!”, He shouted grabbing his friend by the collar.
“After everything that’s happened, I have to finish this. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
Trang lowered her voice and spoke up, “This doesn’t have to be a one on one; we have the numbers to take Rowlett and kill Tristan...”
Tommy looked back and forth between his two closest friends, “No. I won’t let anybody else be killed over this. It's between me and him. I’m going to finish what he started.”
Aryan looked extremely proud of this decision and shook hands with Tommy firmly, “Well, in that case, you better not lose.”
“I’m not planning on it,” Tommy said confidently.
After Aryan made his leave, Trang and Tommy didn’t take long to pop open a bottle of whiskey for potentially the last time. The pair drunkenly recounted stories and memories from the past few years, having a good laugh simultaneously. Tommy had avoided the bottle for nearly a month at this point, “Who wants to spend potentially their last night sober?” he thought to himself.
The pair had an elongated laugh for a minute straight before Tommy caught his breath, “You realize you’re like, definitely one of the best people I’ve ever met, right?”
Trang struggled to catch her breath before responding, “You’re not too bad yourself, my liege.”
The pair both had a good chuckle in response, “I still can’t believe they all actually bowed to you!”
“That makes two of us, but I got something to ask you...”
“Ask away,” she said, gesturing towards him.
“We’re close and all, but do you think if we were to ever ya know, get closer, it would change anything between us? If you get what I’m saying...” Tommy groggily said with a slightly nervous laugh.
“No strings attached?”
“No strings attached,” he replied as they fist-bumped.
“Well... only since you might die tomorrow, don’t get used to anything”, she said with a laugh as she mounted the much larger man.
The following morning, Tommy awoke and snuck out of his home without waking up Trang as he made his way to the cemetery. Rowlett seemed like a ghost town, as everyone anxiously awaited noon.
After a short stroll, he reached the grave he was looking for. Isaiah Gracy.
“Hey man, sorry it’s been a while...”, Tommy said taking a knee.
Tommy tried to bring himself to say the words he was thinking but couldn’t bring himself to do so. Much to his surprise, a comforting hand was placed on his shoulder, “Hey... f-f-friend.”
“Oh shit, hey Tito, what brings you out here?” Tommy asked.
“You... do”, Tito said sadly as he hugged Tommy, “can’t... blame self for everything. I see how... Tommy has been acting. You not happy. You blame self.”
“I mean, I was in charge... I made calls that got people killed...”
“But also made calls... that saved others. You beat Jacob, helped win war”, Tito said proudly, “no need to keep fighting... war over.”
“I’m sorry, but my fights not over yet. You wouldn’t get it, but it’s something I have to do”, Tommy said, turning away.
“I... understand. Good luck”, Tito said as he paced away defeated.
Tommy watched him go walking in the opposite direction. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, taking one last glance at his old friend's grave.
Tommy walked with his posse consisting of Trang, Aryan, Angel, Brooklyn, and Garrett as they made their way towards the football field.
“You’re a good man; you know that, right?” Brooklyn said after pulling Tommy aside as they continued on their way.
“I try to be-“
“No, you are. Whether you admit it or not. Just remember that. I speak for all of my people when I say we would’ve fought for you until the end.”
“I appreciate that,” he said with a proud look as he placed his hand on the hilt of his newly claimed katana.
Soon, they reached the fence line as the crowd filed into the stands. “You ready?” Trang asked Tommy as he peered at Tristan stretching in the opposite end zone.
“Let’s find out,” he replied.
“Protect yourself out there, mon,” Luis said as he dapped Tristan up before retreating to the stands. Tristan locked eyes with Katie before walking towards the 50-yard line where Tommy stood.
“Tell the men to be ready,” The Mammoth whispered to Steel-Bane as the two opponents approached one another, “we have orders to restrain and, if need be kill, anyone who attempts to interfere with the fight. Both sides agreed.” Steel-Bane nodded in agreement and gave the orders to the other guards.
The crowd remained rather silent as the two adversaries came face to face. Tristan extended his hand, only to have the shake turned away by the opposition unsheathed his katana and readied himself.
“You know it’s not too late to call this off, right?” Tristan said as he readied himself, sword and shield in hand.
“I told you I was going to kill you. I am a man of my word after all”, Tommy said, swinging his weapon with all the might he could muster. Tristan was barely responsive enough to block this as he raised his shield in defense and knocked backward several yards.
Tommy paced towards Tristan and continued landing blow after blow, beating upon his adversary’s shield. Tristan’s arm quickly grew weary as some force was continuously directed towards it, and in quick succession, he deflected Tommy’s katana with his blade and flung his shield into Tommy’s chest. The forest folk and people of the kingdom cheered loudly as the wind was knocked out of the buff man, and the two stared each other down, catching their breath.
The thought of trying to talk his way out of this crossed Tristan’s mind, but he knew it was useless. Only one of them was leaving this field alive. The two rivals simultaneously flung themselves at the other and crossed blades, with Tristan again taking a more defensive standpoint.
As the two locked weapons, Tommy delivered a blow to Tristan’s head that sent him spiraling to the side, with his helmet flying in the opposite direction. Tommy paused for a moment and wreathed in pain as he had just punched a metal helmet as Tristan struggled to his feet.
The two circled one another as the audience was either deafeningly loud or dead silent, fearful for their champion's fate. Tristan broke the circling as he jabbed towards Tommy and was easily parried, and the hilt of Tommy’s katana connected with Tristan’s temple, causing a stream of blood to began to flow.
Tristan looked towards the audience and locked eyes with Chino, who, with a nod, said all that he needed to. Tommy threw all of his force towards Tristan swing after swing, but the smaller man managed to parry and block each one. “You’ve always been a slippery one,” Tommy panted, still swinging.
“You know that almost feels like a compliment,” Tristan said, locking blades and staring Tommy in the eyes. With a quick knee, Tommy’s nuts took an immediate impact. He reacted by slamming his sword into Tristan’s side, sending him flying but not wounded due to his armor.
The Asian man took several painful breaths before running towards Tristan and kneeing him in the chin as he attempted to get up. Quickly mounting on top of him, he connected several punches to either cheek, “Everything could’ve been different, but you had to ruin it!” he said as he beat him down, “I’ve waited a long time for this,” he said soaking in the moment with his katana planted in the dirt beside him.
Tristan spit a spray of blood into Tommy’s eyes, “You’re gonna have to wait a little longer,” he muttered, head butting Tommy in the nose, immediately breaking it, and with a knee to the stomach, knocked him off.
Tristan crawled towards his sword, only to have Tommy grab him and throw him back. Tommy quickly grabbed his katana and raised it when Tristan flung a fist full of loose dirt in his eye, causing Tommy to hesitate for a moment in pain. By the time the katana was brought down, Tristan has already rolled out of the way.
Tommy peered over at Aryan and Trang and quickly calmed himself while catching his breath as Tristan limped his way towards him, weapon in hand. “Just know... it’s still not too late. A wise man once said”, he said, peering over at Aryan, “nobody’s too far gone. We can still go back on this.”
Tommy paused for a moment before tightening his grip, “You’re right. But you killed Seth. There’s no going back.”
Tristan took a sigh of frustration, “So be it.”
Tommy stared him down before stripping off his armor plate and removing his helmet. Tristan followed in suit by removing his armor plate as well, leaving the two of them exposed.
The dirt beneath Tommy’s feet loosened as he eagerly shifted. Tristan tightly gripped his trusty sword as the crowd grew dead silent. Katie couldn’t help but close her eyes as the two of them rushed towards each other. The two went for the kill shot, and the crowd gasped in synchronization as blood splattered the grass below.
Tristan and Tommy held eye contact for several lingering seconds before Tommy fell to his knees, with a hand placed on his stomach that bled at an increasing rate. Tristan dropped his sword and caught the dying man as he fell to the ground.
The audience that was cheering at one point didn’t bother to make a sound as Tristan held Tommy’s hand firmly. “So this is it...” Tommy said sadly.
“I’m afraid it looks that way, old friend...”
“What have we become... look at us”, Tommy said in a moment of realization, “maybe we’re not so different from Jacob or Rover after all...”
“We can still change... we can be better all of us... there’s still hope for the future”, Tristan said, mustering whatever hope he could, as the last ounce of hatred he held seemed to fade away.
“Not for... my future”, Tommy said, spitting out a gush of blood, “promise me something...”
“Anything...” Tristan said as several others began filing out of the stands and towards the two of them: Trang, Aryan, Angel, Tito, Chino, Brooklyn, Simon, Mohamed, and Garrett.
“Protect them. Don’t let this all be for nothing... don’t let our home fall.”
“I won’t... I swear to you I won’t,” Tristan said as he stood up and walked away as the others swarmed around Tommy, desperate to be there for him in his final moments.
The rest of the crowd silently follows in suite. As Tristan squeezed through the crowd, Katie finally reached him, and the two connected and an elongated hug. “I’m so sorry-“Katie began to say before Tristan cut her off.
“It’s over now,” he stated, looking back as Tommy fell limp, hand in hand with Aryan and a crying Trang, “it’s all over now...”
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